The Leonisa Ardizzone Quartet: Afraid Of The Heights (2007)
After a listen to this exciting new jazz vocalist's debut, my first thoughts were where did Leonisa Ardizzone come from and where has she been? The New York singer actually has a rather impressive position as the Executive Director of the Salvatore Center, a not-for-profit organization that uses the built environment to instruct teachers and children about architecture, engineering and urban planning.
Although this album is just released, the same group has been performing togther for eight years. The session begins with a fresh version of Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" with what sound like new lyrics penned by someone named Harrison, distinctly not the better known Eddie Jefferson version. Anyway, Ardizzone's perky reading starts with a unison introduction featuring her voice and guitarist (and husband) Chris Jennings. When the rest of the group joins in, the mood has been fully set and Ardizzone switches to full-tilt scat.
She follows with a delicious paean to her New York home in Washington Heights, the urban enclave at the upper end of Manhattan near the George Washington Bridge. A very clever set of lyrics, written by drummer Justin Hines, reports that "...If you come and visit me, you may think it's Albany / Way up here in Washington Heights....You may be surprised to see that we've got electricity / Way up here in Washington Heights....You may think it's Timbuktu, but we've got Starbucks just like you / Way up here in Washington Heights..."
Four of the ten selections are from the Great American Songbook, incuding a up-tempo version of Kosma/Mercer's "Autumn Leaves," for which Ardizzone adds additional lyrics about the changing foliage vis a vis the view of the Hudson River. She renders the Jobim classic "Triste" very nicely in Portuguese and one of two originals by the singer, "I Got Lucky," has a tasty contemporary sound.
Finally, the Rahsaan Roland Kirk/Charles Mingus jazz standard "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" emerges with new and original lyrics by Ardizzone. I've been listening to the Mingus lyrics for so long now that I was surprised to hear how refreshing these new ones can be. It is definitively not the underdog suffering that Lester Young had to endure in the Mingus lyrics, but it works just fine.
This is a short but very sweet new notice of an arrival on the jazz vocal scene!
Track Listing: Anthropology; Afraid Of The Heights; Autumn Leaves; Triste; I'm Not The Same; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; I Got Lucky; Alone Together; Nature Boy; You Go To My Head.
Personnel: Leonisa Ardizzone: vocals; Chris Jenning: guitar: Bob Sabin: bass; Justin Hines: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced